Friday, May 25, 2012

Side-scrolling Painting begins

Early video games have been a strong influence on me ever since I started playing them as a kid.  My dad was copywriter for early Atari commercials and we had an Atari system in our home soon after it came out.  Looking back, it's funny to think that the 8-bit graphics were so mesmerizing, but they were. It wasn't hard for me to suspend my disbelief and become engrossed into the block-y, wonky worlds created forme to navigate.  As the technology advanced, I continued to be amazed at how increasingly "realistic" the graphics progressed, with a finer pixel resolution and ever-expanding color palette.  I am still attracted to video games and enjoy playing them (when time permits), but I've been increasingly interested in how my "visual history" has been informed so strongly both by the early, flat, side-scrolling games and my love of painting.  I have experimented with techniques that have attempted to bring the flatness of painting into 3D space, but I keep coming back to the challenge and contradiction of painting, aka, the "hanging window." I love paintings that are both so obviously flat and seductively spatial at the same time.  As with the early video games, it's not hard for me to suspend my disbelief and fall into an even clumsily-painted world.  My current paintings are composed of distinct and separate parts (brush strokes) that pose as "things" within an invented world.  And all these painted parts are, at the same time, a representation of something within the window, while existing as a direct and obvious product of the tool that made it (i.e., the line or "thing" is as wide as the brush that made it). This is not unsimilar to early pixel graphics.  Another similarity between painting and the video games I love is the promise of vast adventure through an uncharted land.  In painting, I've struggled between "knowing" and "not knowing" for a long time (side note: Here's a great clip of Philip Guston in his studio, talking about this position). To me, "knowing" feels like a resolution, and "not knowing" feels like endless possibility.  Manifest Destiny of the imagination, perhaps.  I've made paintings in the past that related directly to previous paintings, or picked up where others left off, but this new series does that in a very noticeable way, while combining all the the ideas I've just related.  These "side-scrolling" paintings are a flat as can be, with still an openness of space and the ever-ongoing promise of discovery.  Plus, I'm having a blast so far working on them.  I really don't have any clue where they're going.  It's almost like a "Choose Your Own Adventure" book, with paint on canvas. Although in this case, all the possibilities with eventually exist at once.  I can decide to move up, down, left, or right, in a ongoing, "Exquisite Corpse" abstract landscape.  I can't wait to see where this leads and I'm excited to share my travels on the blog.

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